Smoke drops his rendition of an alternate to the trade shows we just showcased for the past month or so and we have to say that in an ideal world, his version would win year after year!
Ahh yes. The end of summer has arrived, and with it the usual round of trade shows and industry product release mayhem. This is the reality of the bike industry. When the promise of long dusty days in the saddle beckon, everyone packs off to some godforasaken spot in the desert to wilt under artificial light and processed air while pretending to drool over the “new” bits and bobs that Pinkbike already previewed on the site weeks before. In an alternate reality, could we not do something like this in a more bike oriented community? Is there not a convention center in Vancouver. Does not Whistler have the greatest bike park in the world? Is there not an option?
Interbike in another dimension sure looks like the Interior of BC.
Why yes...yes there is. And like so many great alternate realities in the fat tire realm, it’s centered in the Kootenay region of BC. It just so happens that there’s a small yet influential distribution company in Nelson that felt that the time was ripe for a bit of a change in the program. So instead of the usual booth that tries to re-create a bit of artificial forest in some industrial building someplace, it was felt that it might work better to import some of the industry to recreate in the forest and at the same time have a look at some of the offerings on tap for 2012.NRG Enterprises
was founded a couple of decades ago by another former Cove resident by the name of Ramin Sherkat. Distributing such core product as Chromag
, and many others including some in-house staples, NRG wields a lot of clout in the Canadian market. Ramin also happens to be one of the senior winter guides at Retallack Lodge. This year, Retallack just happened to partner up with Riley McIntosh for mountain bike operations So it was a natural progression to invite 20 of their key accounts to the lodge for a special pre-Interbike preview of the new kit.
THIS is a dirt demo.
I've got the inside on this one simply because I scored some guiding work with Retallack this summer. I'll be throwing down some more stories about the lodge later in the winter, but for now it's suffice to say that this is the first "Real Deal" backcountry lodge in the immense world that is Canadian Freeride. This was to be a bit of a bigger crew than would be usual though. With all the guides and staff, we were looking at a group of 27. Which meant that much of the usual terrain wouldn't be practical. Not to mention that not everyone in attendance would be that solid on the steep terrain typical of the Kootenays.
Luckily, Ramin had a cool plan for the weekend. In between product knowledge sessions and truly epic amounts of ale, he lined up some excellent routes for us to negotiate. Ramin is now a Kootenay guy, but like me he traces his roots back to the Cove, and those roots are showing. He has a hard time with the whole shuttle concept, so in the spirit of the old school we had a route plan that looked more like a mountain stage at the Tour de France than a typical shuttle fest in the Koots. With some massive slopes all around, to do a full marathon route under our own power was kind of ambitious to say the least. Instead we did some "shuttle assisted" climbing. This meant that we would use vehicles to get up some of the elevation, but would still pedal the more worthy parts. So the first 4500' or so was done while sardined into the vans.
The peloton crying out for Dave Watson to jump them.
Even with the van support, the initial climb was pretty stiff. Straight up, it was steep enough in spots that riding it was counter-productive. While it would be a bit dull as far as riding goes under normal circumstances, with such perfect weather and enough riders to form a peloton things sharpened up briskly. I knew many of the riders personally already, as the NRG network just happens to closely mirror my own (check the sponsor list below for similarities). I assumed that the new faces would be just as entertaining. This crew is a veritable 'Who's Who" of OG BC bike shop proprietors. As is usual in a group like this, friendly competition soon ensued.
Pete "Pack Filler" Dorrey at the road gap on Reco.
As I mentioned in the last story, a group ride isn’t a race. Except that it always is. Props go to Mark Holt of The Sacred Ride in Nelson for being the King of the Mountains all day long. Kind of an unfair advantage for the local boy, but damn can he climb. The first summit was actually a col between Reco and Texas peaks called Hollywood Ridge. If you’ve seen Brandon Semenuk’s segment in the last New World Disorder, you’ve seen this spot before. We weren’t really up to that calibre of riding though, so we contented ourselves with some gawking at the huge lines they built up here for that project, and took a bit of time to light a candle on a cupcake for our man Shreddie’s birthday.
"Papa" Shreddie, Williams Lake icon and now the proud father of a baby girl as of October 3rd.
The descent was not particularly exciting as far as the standards of trails go. It’s an old mining access doubletrack, but what it lacked in technical challenge was made up by the astounding views and the staggering amount of vertical drop. 28 switchbacks at full speed make for an interesting 45 minutes. The road also intersects a wide array of mining history in the form of abandoned shafts, adits, and many ruined mining structures. I can only dream of this road having a big berm on every corner and three big tables on every straightaway. If it wasn’t for it having a fair amount of quad traffic, that dream could be realized fairly quickly.Does this look like it could be a killer gap to you?
After passing through the ghost town of Cody we took a lunch break in Sandon at the local museum. We presented a bit of a spectacle with nearly thirty dusty riders arriving en masse. Keep in mind that the permanent population of Sandon is a robust 5. They are somewhat used to the presence of the two-wheeled warriors, and even boast a former resident with some impressive riding credentials like a silver medal at the Worlds and several Canadian DH medals (anyone care to guess who?).I still don't know what they're looking at, but it must be good.
The post-lunch programme was another ascent, this time on the lower reaches of Idaho Peak. The main route up gets quite busy with tourist traffic heading up to the lookout at the top, and as such is insanely dusty and not terribly safe for a large group. Instead we tackled the alternate climb up H-Road, which is surprisingly pleasant. Keep in mind that I’m not all that excited about pedalling up mountains that have perfectly good roads. You know that if I’m OK with it, that it’s not a real lung buster. After a couple of thousand vertical feet, we ran out of suitable trail however, so we piled into the vans for the next couple grand.
Kurt marshals his forces for another big up.
Apart from some clueless tourists not clear on the concept of leaving appropriate space for large trucks to pass, we got to Sundowner without incident. Oh, and we did run into a dust covered Rudi Schneider (another pro cyclist from a former age) on the way up, but we had no room for him in the bus. He didn’t know about the alternate climb, and was consequently a bit dusty from the experience.
Eat my dust, Schneider!
As it was going to be simply too busy up at the top to unload nearly 30 riders, we skipped out on the Wakefield and opted for the less traveled ‘Choices,’ so named for its many intersecting options. This led to some interesting moments with a large group getting split up, but all the lines do lead to a few common choke points, so it was easy getting people back together.
Are you sure this is the way?
Of greater importance on this part of the ride was the degree of steepness, or the angle of repose as it were. The lower slopes on Idaho Peak have some moderately serious grades in places, and if you are from less mountainous regions of Canada (like Ontario or Newfoundland), you might just be out of your depth here. I really wish I had a headcam on at times like these, because it’s harder to share the images burned on my retinas without one. Picture if you will several middle aged, slightly out of shape, badly out of wind shop owners upside down in the rough, some of them still moving, looming out of the thick dust clouds raised by the multiple impacts.
“Don’t stop!” someone screamed at my as I came through. Yeah well...not here I’m not going to. But I damn well did just down the trail to try to get some pics of the carnage.
Ah well, none of them turned out, but I did manage to capture the historic moment when one guy came through on a Salas 29’r with sweeper bars. That would be a first on Choices, that’s for sure.Titanium handlebars and wagon wheels; perfect for Idaho Peak.
The final trail treat for the day was the Old Sandon Road, which parallels the historic Galena Trail, but on the south side of Carpenter Creek. Many people are familiar with the Galena and its famous cable car ferry, but not so many folks have ridden the Old Sandon Road. Which is a shame as it was in many ways the highlight of the day. It’s the original wagon road from New Denver up the valley, and passes through many old mines. It’s been hacked from the side of the mountain and over the years has been partially covered in many spots by rockfalls and the like. It also passes by several old mines. It’s got lots of great sidehill sections, some awesome exposure in places, and even a couple technical parts. Mainly it was about some great flow. We were like a runaway train, with the end in sight the crew picked up lots of momentum in their rush to the cold beers awaiting us on the beach. Well, that and a bunch of flat tires, but it was a long day.
The Seal Club, a bunch of pale fleshy mammals on a beach.
Is that the answer to the apparent stagnation of industry trade shows? Honestly, probably not. There were less than 30 people on that beach at the end of the day, an improbable number of beers went M.I.A. However, it was a great alternative to the usual, and although I don’t know how it went for sales, it was certainly a worthy experience.
Oh, you want to know about the gear? Hey, it all looked great, but you can look up that stuff anyplace. Instead, I’m gonna give a shout to some lesser known equipment that I run. I don’t normally do product reviews, but in the spirit of the thing, here we go:Bonus Gear Review:
I get well taken care of by some great sponsors. Rocky Mountain
hooked me up with a couple of great bikes this year. If you're paying attention to this site, you'll know that the Flatline
are getting rave reviews around the web. Likewise with Maxxis
tires, anything Chromag
, DT wheels
, and MRP guides and cranks
. I'm not gonna talk about those things, or even the amazing rebirth of Marzocchi
as the 888's have risen from the ashes of the debacle of the past to regain their rightful place as the fork of choice in the gravity set.
Nope, let's look at some unsung heroes. We’re talking about low end upgrades here, where the performance per penny is the best that it can get.
We all know about the 5.10 shoes now. Sticky rubber, burly build, a bunch of new options. Heard it before. Well, they also are kind of wide and have a bit of a flat feel to the bed. As someone with seriously dainty hooves, I’ve never found them suitable.
Smells like victory, and a dash of blue cheese.
Enter the Specialized footbed
. They come in three different arch profiles, are stupid easy to fit, and also have some custom shims available if you're really picky about your foot support. I can tell you that they work as advertised, and are a steal at less than $50 at most Specialized dealers. I am now a 5.10 convert in no small part to these footbeds. I would guess that just about any off the shelf footbed would give anyone a performance increase with their riding, but these are the ones I tried, so I'm telling you about them first.
Another thing about the 5.10's is their incredible stickiness. While that sticky rubber is one amazing selling feature, it's also one of the few criticisms of the shoe. In a nutshell, if you miss your foot placement on the pedal, it can be almost impossible to correct when you're trying to deal with rough terrain. While often not a big deal, it can be infuriating when you're trying to get started in a technical section, or downright dangerous if you're running full speed into the gnar with the stance of a crippled duck.
Think fast, hippy.
The answer is in the pedals. By request, I tried out some plastic low profile pedals from NRG that go by the amusing misnomer of "Hippy Killers." They are slightly convex
, which flies in the face of conventional pedal design, but when paired with the 5.10's they allow a near perfect blend of stickiness while retaining the ability to re-adjust your foot position without having to lift your foot from the pedal. Admittedly, this is a very personal and preferential feel, and I have a feeling that it's niche enough that we may not see these pedals around for long, but I for one thought they were awesome. I rode them on both my XC rig and my big bike, and never had to think about my foot placements. Big thumbs up.
After pricing out all the bits and bobs on my Flatline, I think it would retail in roughly the $6500-$7000 range. Have a look at this headset:Seventeen bucks, a bargain at twice the price.
Yup, that's right. I run an FSA PIG with plain old ball bearings.
"Why," you may ask?
Simple. After years of abusing high end cartridge bearing headsets with complicated tensioning systems I've gotten bored with all the creaking and crackling noises and the associated problems with servicing them. The PIG is simple, cheap, and damn near maintenance free. Not to mention cheap. I picked this one up on sale for SEVENTEEN BUCKS. So I bought two of them. Oh, and you also configure the PIG to fit just about any headtube/steertube combination. I'm running a 1.5"-1-1/8th" stepdown, but they make retro kits to fit any taper/headtube combo you can think of. Even at $50, these are still my headset of choice.
There you go. A few time tested products for you that really work. Although if I'm to be perfectly frank, I'm secretly stoked to see fluorescent colours return for next season. I'm hoping to have one LOUD bike for next season.Plus, they come with free Jolly Ranchers!
After all the Interbike hype, some reality check for you. Oh, and since we've been getting all those pics of tarted up females that could never even pick up a bike, let alone ride one, I thought I'd leave you with this shot of Lorraine shredding Toad Peak in the Kootenays.
Girls that can actually ride a bike are infinitely hotter than any Interbike arm candy.
Take that, Vegas.